Christine McVie believes it was her estranged husband John who made the call that the new record Fleetwood Mac was creating sounded like “a bunch of rumours”. And so, Rumours was what it was called.
Rumours came into my life when I was about 11 years old; by that stage it had been out a decade already and I had in fact listened far more closely to Tango In The Night (and Tusk) and – in fact – the green-cover Greatest Hits album before getting, retrospectively, to Rumours.
Turns out, actually, that I had heard Rumours – all my life up to that point; my father had the tape in his car. And there were the ubiquitous hits covered on the Greatest Hits album (Don’t Stop, Dreams, Go Your Own Way, You Make Loving Fun).
But hearing Rumours for the first time, knowingly, was a moment. It was special. Because – as Christine McVie’s narration would go on to tell me, the back-story was as important to the album as the songs…around the time of Tango In The Night I was obsessed with the excellent made-for-TV documentary, Fleetwood Mac at 21.
A couple of years ago now there was the 35th Anniversary Edition of Rumours; a three-disc set featuring the original album and two bonus discs: one with studio outtakes, one a live gig from the 1977 Rumours World Tour.
There was a decent fill of Rumours outtakes offered with the 2004 reissue of the album on double CD – and I’ve got a couple of copies of the album on vinyl. I’ve read two books that deal specifically with the making of Rumours and the story behind the making of the album and I’ve read close to a dozen others about Fleetwood Mac’s (overall) story.
Rumours is one of those monumentally huge albums. Whilst I (almost) understand the punk fans of the era being still thoroughly revolted by the album – and its concept/conception – at the same time I’m sorta baffled; to my mind anyone who likes music needs to hear – and hold dear this album. If not for the actual music then for the story.
How could five people so strangely entwined and bitterly divided create this perfect pop music? That’s the question I have in mind every time I listen to Rumours.
It’s a treat to hear the demo versions of what would become The Chain – if you never have; two distinct songs, the band capable of marrying up tunes to make perfect unions while the marriages within the band were crumbling.
And the live CD shows the now show-stopping hits as tentative crawlers…newborn songs heading out into the world. For the first time, or thereabouts…
But it’s the original album that still baffles and captivates. How could they have relegated Silver Springs to mere b-side? (Now it is included at the end of the CD, in 2004 it was placed between Songbird and The Chain, the (new) opener to Side Two.
I still prefer Tusk – that album is the true masterpiece, for mine. And the eponymous album that launched the Buckingham/Nicks era is strong; some days I’m more invested in that than Rumours. But Rumours is the one that tells the story – the incredible tale, the breakups and the almost-nonchalant restarts; the band’s three songwriters kicking off new relationships and boasting about those while dogging their exes. Two of the band’s songwriters sparring – even while Lindsey Buckingham continued to shape Stevie Nicks’ material so as to make it her best.
Rumours is the album that has Buckingham stepping into his role as the band’s sonic visionary.
Rumours is the album that sees Christine McVie slipping into the background, for the first time in nearly a decade – she was always a supporting player but she had been the silent strength of the band, despite her huge contributions to Rumours she is, slowly but surely on the way out.
And Stevie Nicks’ persona is on the rise – her way of inhabiting a song, creating a role for each song – that started with Rhiannon (and maybe Landslide, even) on the previous album but it’s Rumours where this really resonates; where she announces this with Gold Dust Woman and Dreams and her role in The Chain.
Rumours is so beautifully, perfectly spit-polished. Hard work and cocaine and booze and loads of money…throw enough vices and cash together to swirl with superb songwriting.
I hear Rumours as a punk album. You probably think that’s absurd. But there’s something very punk-spirit to me about the setting for these songs, if not the actual songs.
I probably didn’t need the extras that came with the 35th Anniversary Edition – but I welcomed them anyway. As a fan does.
Fleetwood Mac’s music has meant more to me across all the years of my life than any other band; all versions of the band….